Sunday School Lesson #37

September 17, 2006 | 17 comments
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Lesson 37: Isaiah 22, 23, 24-26, 27, 28-30*

First consider a literal, historical interpretation of these chapters. You may need to consult the maps in your scriptures to understand the references to countries and kingdoms. This is how I think the people of Isaiah’s time would have understood what he was saying:

             22:1-14             What will happen to Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar invades.

             22:15-25           The condemnation and exile of Shebna, a high official in Hezekiah’s government, and his replacement by someone more worthy, Eliakim. One tradition says that he was the steward of the king’s household, another that he was in charge of the Temple treasury. Tradition also says that he plotted to turn Hezekiah over to the Assyrians, but verse 16 seems to suggest that he has tried to give himself a high status, perhaps by embezzlement.

             23                      The prophet foretells that Tyre and Sidon, the most important cities in Phoenicia, will be destroyed.

             24-27                A set of prophecies of God’s judgment of the world, his overcoming of Satan, his blessing of Israel, and the overcoming of death and suffering.

             24                      A preview of the judgment day.

             25                      A hymn of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of Israel and for the defeat of Israel’s enemies. Which deliverance and which enemies is left unstated.

             26:1-6               A song of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the protection of Jerusalem as a city for the righteous and for the humiliation of Jerusalem’s enemies. Again, the time to which this hymn refers is not given, though it seems to be the prophecy of something to come rather than praise for what has already happened.

             26:7-19             Three prayers: a prayer expressing trust in God (1-6) and one asking him to destroy his adversaries (7-12); a prayer for Israel’s ultimate deliverance and for the resurrection (13-19).

             26:20-21           Isaiah’s call to Israel to go into seclusion until God’s indignation, or anger, at the inhabitants of the earth is past.

             27                      A prophecy that the Lord will overcome three monsters, two serpents and a dragon. These seem to represent the three great powers of Isaiah’s day, Assyria, Edom, and Egypt. This chapter expands on Isaiah 26:21, describing God’s anger against the inhabitants of the earth.

             28-32                Isaiah’s warning about what will happen if Judah makes an alliance with Egypt.

             28:1-4               What happened or will happen to Israel, the Northern Kingdom.

             28:5-6               The coming of the Messiah.

             28:7-8               A description of Judah, showing that they are no better than was Israel.

             28:9-13             A question: How can one teach such a people? An answer: Not easily. It will sound to them as if the teacher were stammering or speaking in a foreign language.

             28:14-22           Isaiah answers those who scoff at his advice not to make an alliance with Egypt: in response to their scoffing, in the end the Lord will establish his justice and righteousness, and they will overcome the scoffers’ injustice and unrighteousness.

             28:23-29           Isaiah invites the scoffers to listen to a parable about farming: the farmer plows, breaking up the soil, but he doesn’t do so just to plow. He has a purpose, namely the eventual harvest. He threshes each seed of his harvest with the appropriate equipment.

<              29:1-4               Though Jerusalem is, at the moment of the prophecy, celebrating its feast (in other words, in charge of itself rather than subservient to another power), it will be attacked and brought down.

             29:5-8               Nevertheless, the Lord will destroy Jerusalem’s enemies.

             29:9-12             Isaiah inveighs against Judah for not listening to his warning.

             29:13-14           He condemns them for a worship that merely goes through the motions.

             29:15-21           He prophesies of the restoration of Israel and the destruction of the wicked, particularly those who use words to cause sin, try to trick those who preach repentance, and ignore those who are just.

             29:22-24           The restoration will remove Israel’s shame and they will subject themselves to the true God.

             30:1-2               A denunciation of those who recommend the alliance with Egypt.

             30:3-5               The consequences of that disobedience: Pharaoh will welcome Judah’s representatives, but that welcome will redound to Judah’s shame.

             30:6-7               A description of the trip to Egypt and its outcome. Notice that verses 3 and 4 are parallel to verse 6 and verse 5 is parallel to verse 7.

             30:8                   A command to Isaiah to write down his prophecy.

             30:9-11             Why the written book is needed: because Judah will lie and pretend they have not been told these things; they will deny prophesy and demand that the prophets not prophesy.

             30:12-14           How the Lord will respond to those lies and demands: Jerusalem will be destroyed.

             30:15-16           The Lord promised them that they could be tranquil and safe, but they refused his offer.

             30:17                 The result of their refusal: Judah will be isolated and alone.

             30:18-26           But the Lord will wait for Judah’s repentance and he will save them from the destruction in which they will find themselves, showering them with blessings.

             30:27-33           A prophecy of the destruction of the Assyrians when they attack Jerusalem.

After you’ve understood this as Isaiah’s listeners would have understood it, look back to see what kinds of things in these prophecies could be understood as shadows of the coming of Christ as a mortal (the type). Then reread these chapters looking for things that describe the latter-day Restoration. Also look for things that apply to the Second Coming. Finally, look for things that you can apply to your own, individual and family experience. Each of these is a legitimate reading of Isaiah, and that his writings can profitably be read in so many ways is one of the reasons he is such an important prophet.

You might want particularly to look at some of these scriptures and ask yourself how to understand them in each of these ways: Isaiah 22:22; 24:21-22; 25:1-4 (compare 32:1-2); 25:6-9; 26:19; 28:16; 29:4, 9-14, 18, 24; and 30:19-21.

Isaiah 22:15-22

As an exercise in seeing types and shadows, look at two levels for reading this passage. (These are not the only levels of reading, but they are good ones to start with.)

First consider the literal reading:

             Shebna is proud and haughty and perhaps commits fraud or treason. (15-16).

             Therefore, the Lord will send Shebna into exile and remove him from his post (17-19, 25).

             Eliakim, the son of the high priest, Hilkiah, will be appointed in his stead (19-24).

                          He will be clothed with the official clothing that Shebna wore (21).

He will be in charge of the government, and his relation to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (and Israel!) will be like that of a father (21).

He will have the key of the house of David on his shoulder, in other words, as a sign of his rank, and his authority will be final (22).

He will be “a nail in a sure place” and he will bring honor to his father’s house (23).

His whole family will depend on him (24), which presumably means he will be able to provide for them all.

Now try to understand the same material as a shadow of something eternal:

Footnotes: 20a tells us that we can understand Eliakim as a type of the Savior. His name means “God shall cause to arise.”

Note: Though the footnotes don’t say so, Shebna means “vigor.” Does that add anything to your understanding?

If Eliakim is a type of the Savior, who might Shebna be a type of? What makes you think what you do?

What might the exile of Shebna represent (17-18)?

What might we understand by the Lord’s declaration that Shebna will be driven from his high position and pulled down from his station (19)?

How might we understand the clothing that is put on Eliakim? What might we understand by the government being put in his hands, by him being a father to all of Israel (21)?

What might we understand by “the key of the house of David” (22)? How about “he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”?

How might we understand this person being fastened as “a nail in a sure place” (23)? Bringing honor to his father’s house?

What could it mean to say that his whole family will depend on him (24)?

*The chapters that are not in bold are not assigned for the lesson. Nevertheless, I have included them because I will refer to them.

17 Responses to Sunday School Lesson #37

  1. Margaret Young on September 18, 2006 at 11:02 am

    I always love to read Jim’s preps for SS. They help me understand what I’m teaching better. But here’s the rub: I teach pretty much all of the youth in my ward. So I’m always looking at ways to keep them wanting to return to Sunday School. As I looked through the manual and saw that I’d be teaching FOUR classes on Isaiah, I almost panicked. In the past, I’ve done things like making a video about Jonah starring all of my class members, inventing games, showing video clips, bringing candy etc. to help the class stay interested. So far, we’re doing well. I taught Hosea and Gomer yesterday. Next week will be Amos etc. I would love to hear from other youth teachers about how they help a group of very active, easily distracted teens get interested in Isaiah. I’m starting to formulate ideas, but I’d appreciate input. Since two of the kids in my class belong to me, I do get to hear feedback.

  2. Julie M. Smith on September 18, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Margaret–

    I wonder if the drawing activity or making a time machine might work with your group:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=3433

  3. Jim F. on September 18, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Margaret’s question is a tough but important one. I bet that those who teach the adult classes have the same quesiton: how do I teach this lesson?

    Though I intend my study questions to help people, teachers and students, think about the lesson rather than as lesson materials themselves, it would be interesting to read people’s ideas about how to present the lesson materials, for youth and adult classes.

    It would also be interesting to hear how people plan to teach the lesson to different groups. Those teaching a class of mostly recent converts may well teach the lesson quite differently than those teaching a ward of “old” members.

  4. Robert C. on September 19, 2006 at 12:09 am

    I teach 12-14 year olds (using the OT SS manual) and haven’t had much problem keeping their attention telling OT stories during the narrative chapters (and spending at least 10 minutes reviewing old stories each week–the boys seem to enjoy remembering and retelling some of the stories in their own words, the girls sometimes seem a bit impatient to learn new stories and lessons). Hosea was a bit more difficult (the girls were content talking about the bridegroom-groom analogy, but a couple of the boys got a bit out of control). I’m planning to do a strong follow-the-prophet theme for Amos, Joel, and Isaiah 1-28 discussing good and bad examples of how to respond to prophets, and the how and why prophets are called, with parallels in those days with these days (incl. problems with not fulfilling our church callings a la Isa 28, and I’ll probably make a plug “which is like kids not paying attention in Sunday School!). Something else that sometimes seems to work well is going around the class and making everyone add something to a list of things, e.g. “what have the prophets taught us today?”

    I liked several of Julie’s ideas, I’ll try mixing it up a bit more, esp. now that there are less narratives to keep the kids’ interest.

    Also, I should mention how spiritually precocious the kids often are. I was talking about metaphors during the Hosea lesson and we read about the children of Israel being like the sands of the sea, and then about God’s wrath being compared to water (Hosea 5:10), and so one the girls made the connection to the song “the wise man built his house upon the rock” which lead into a good conversation about what it means for Christ to be our rock and how we need to build our lives on his teachings rather than human/secular teachings….

  5. Jim F. on September 20, 2006 at 12:54 am

    I was fourteen when I joined the Church. I listened to the missionaries, argued with them, thought about what they said, and eventually received a strong, in fact overwhelming, spiritual confirmation that the Church is true. However, after joining the Church, I was shocked to discover that most of those my age knew nothing about the Bible and little about the Book of Mormon. (I think that would not be as true today.) Most of all, I was shocked to discover that in Sunday School class nothing was expected of them. (I fear that might be the same today.) I’d never seen anything like that, and I’d been going to one church or another my whole life.

    I agree with Robert about young teenagers being able to understand more than we sometimes think and about them being spiritually more mature than we assume, though I wouldn’t say they are precocious only because that seems to suggest that perhaps we are right to assume that they aren’t spiritually profound.

    We do young people a disservice if we go along with the myth that they aren’t ready for spiritual things, for self-discipline, for deep thoughts. I think we insist too long on our children remaining infants, in Sunday School and in school.

  6. Mark Butler on September 20, 2006 at 1:42 am

    Seminary suffers from the same weakness – it simply isn’t educational enough, and when it is educational it is often educational about the wrong things (notably trivia). Now I attended seminary a little more than twenty years ago, and like all my brothers and sisters, who together have little more common preparation than what the Church recommends, was practically bored to tears.

    It was entertaining, and reasonably educational, and quite devotional, but not nearly as serious as a full high school class should be. It would have been fine as a sixth grade class, but as a high school class it was watered down rather too much to measure up to the promise of such an investment.

  7. Jon L. on September 21, 2006 at 9:56 am

    I also love Jim F.’s detail and insight. This week’s overview has (and will still yet, when I really get into it) added to my rudimentary understanding of Isaiah. I am especially appreciative of the opportunity to better think about the multiple levels of meaning and how to make them meaningful to me.

    Not that anyone is interested, but here is how I think about teaching in church:

    Goal: Give the students opportunities to be enlightened and inspired by the scriptures, other class members, and their own thoughts and comments. The Spirit changes lives. This may be the only time in the week class members take to read and learn the scriptures. Underlying goal: help to instill a love of the scriptures and the gospel.

    Lesson: I try to religiously follow (pun intended) the class outline and focus on the stated purpose.

    Preparation: When I am well prepared I can get through most of the lesson. (I strongly recommend but find it hard to live up to Julie M. Smith’s outstanding standards “How to Teach a Scripture Passage” http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2886 ) My abbreviated version is to read the lesson in the manual, read the scriptures, research (institute manuals, internet, commentaries) to get background and insight, and then prepare my lesson plan from the manual. I cheat: I copy the lesson, unformatted, from lds.org into a word processor. I edit the lesson, mostly removing text and formatting it into an outline that I can understand at a glance–my goal is no more than 2 pages plus supplementary materials. I can usually bang out a lesson in a few hours. The more time I spend researching and preparing, the better my lesson is. (Shock!.

    Delivery: Teach fron the scriptures. Read them with the class. I often frequently interrupt to ask questions, provide context, or focus on an issue. Being a guy, I prefer the few frills approach, using the blackboard, an occasional video clip, and I stand in front of the class teaching with my scriptures open. (The one time I borrowed the stake projector and gave the lesson from Powerpoint, it went very well — I got many comments from the visual learners that seeing the questions, the maps, pictures of the people, and the quotes was very helpful– although subsequently this was disallowed.)

    Structure: Start with something to give the lesson context–review of last week, a timeline, a brief description of the setting. Spend the bulk of the lesson in the scriptures. For 11-year-olds, change the structure from week to week, looking for ways to get them to participate: fill-in-the-blanks type handouts were successful, small groups discussing questions, with class readouts, things where they have to individually participate. (Julie’s thoughts above look very good). For 14 years and up, they can go through the lessons as written. The youth often have better understanding and insight than the adults. For all age levels, I know that changing the teaching methods can help different types of learners, and I am just starting tolearn how to do that.

    All in all, the best lessons are ones in which the scriptures lead to discussions of gospel principles and their application in our lives.

    Gotta run …
    Gotta run…

  8. MW* on September 21, 2006 at 10:27 am

    I teach the 16-18 year olds, and I have a big mix of desires in my group. I have a few kids who want the in depth “this will make me look smart if I know these deep facts” lesson material. I have a few kids who don’t want to be there at all and think the church isn’t true, but to keep their cell phone, they come to church. And I have a few kids who are acclimated to the idea that Church can’t give you an F so Sunday School is just a social hour with their friends. Almost all my kids fall into this last group some percentage of the time.

    Balancing the needs of these groups can be challenging.

    The number one thing I try to think of is how to make my lessons valuable to the kids. The best Lessons I have had was when I used the idea of David and Bathsheba to teach the kids to think before they speak or act and challenge them that week with the good old committment pattern. Kids actually came back remembering their committment weeks later and saying they were trying.

    For Isaiah 1-6, I did a very technical lesson(I had ten pages of material and went over ever difference between Isaiah and the Nephi chapters), which got a mixed response, but ended ok but not great. My kids and I have a good relationship (I am in Texas, so on average I only have 5-6) so I got solid feed back that the majority prefer more about how the scriptures apply to them and their life right now than to what their historical significance and context are.

    This week, I’ll be teaching this lesson, but I am going to focus on the Idea that Christ can wipe away all of our tears and how we can help that happen. I’ll probably discuss how the atonement covers sins against us, and what the Arbinger Institute calls “Self-betrayal”.

  9. Jim F. on September 22, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    MW*: I don’t think that your teenagers are the only ones who prefer to know how the scriptures apply to them and their lives. I think that also describes my adult class, at least half of whom are over 60. And I think that is probably the most important thing I can teach in Sunday School.

    That’s why I intend these materials as study materials rather than lesson materials. I hope they will help those who read them study the material better, will help them get more out of their study of the material assigned for Sunday School, but I don’t have any illusions that using them will make our lessons, whether for youth or adults, any better.

  10. MW* on September 22, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    And I do love that you post this stuff. It is very useful background material for My two kids who are Fact Gatherers.

  11. RebeccaL on September 24, 2006 at 1:51 am

    I teach the adults, but have served in Young Women’s many times. My impression follows that stated by Jim that we do a serious disservice to our youth in assuming that they need to be entertained IF that comes at the expense of not being taught.

    I have always found that the more challenging I make the thinking, the more attention I get from my class, from Primary on up. I like to ask the questions [and I do NOT mean factual questions] and then put my class on the front line for answers. As teachers we may need to give them the resources and support to come up with those answers. The best thing about hard thinking with teens is that they are confronted with the stunning insight that they DON’T know everything. In fact, it is a lesson in becoming teachable, and in avoiding the glib answers they have (unfortunately) been taught to give. I believe they will respond to the respect they perceive, the respect that is based on the faith that they are capable and responsible moral beings.

  12. Mark Butler on September 24, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Of course Eliakim is a type of the Savior. What righteous person isn’t? A better type of question is what kind of type of the Savior is he? Or in other words, who has had a comparable mission in the past.

    The first four parallels that come to mind: Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist.

    The next four parallels: Melchizedek, Abraham, Cyrus, and Hezekiah.

    Now Shebna is a type of one man in particular: Lucifer, but also all unrighteous claimants to the throne or the keys of the Priesthood. So that means just about any unrighteous / worldly king since the world began, or any comparable combination.

  13. nhilton on September 24, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    This week my freshman BYU student was called to teach Gospel Doctrine to her BYU ward. Ha! She called me right after receiving the calling and was excited, nervous, etc. Her biggest worry was that she’d cry when bearing her testimony in class. : ) It has been a treat having her in my GD class since she turned 18 in May. I miss her! As we talked about the lesson we’d both be teaching (Isaiah) , it was forefront in our minds what different audiences we would each be teaching. It is challenging that the same church manual is used for ages 12 to adult, but wonderful that we all be studying the same section of scripture. Our Sunday dinner conversations have been wonderful moments in which we all discuss the same scripture stories/ideas. I found the question in the institute manual a universally appropriate attention getter for teaching Isaiah: “Did anyone ever recommend a book to you? Did it make any difference WHO recommended it? Did the recommendation influence your feelings toward the book? Ponder the following recommendation: 3 Ne. 23:1.” Thank you for your ideas on bringing Isaiah alive for your students and kudos to all of you striving to touch the hearts of your individual students! May the HG be with you!

  14. Dick D on October 3, 2006 at 12:36 am

    Maybe I just missed it somewhere above, but, did y\’all miss Isaiah 30:25? \”… the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.\” I didn\’t see any comments above on this. I did see comments regarding Egypt, Judah, Jerusalem, Assyria and events of the past. But what of today? Recall the Lord\’s words in 3 Ne 23:1-3, \”… therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.\” That which occured in the past (have been) will repeat in the future (shall be). In our day the towers did fall and great was the slaughter on September 11th (World Trade Center towers and thousands dead).

    Just one of the keys to understanding Isaiah is understanding the past events Isaiah spoke of. Understanding those past events enables us to understand the significance of the events occuring in the latter days.

  15. Stirling on October 6, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    My ward is several weeks behind Jim’s as far as the lesson schedule, so I’m joining this conversation late. In response to your question in #1, Margaret, I also teach a youth class, and it too includes “very active, easily distracted teens.”

    In case it’s helpful as an example (of something to follow, or to avoid), one might call my approach to engaging the youth in Isaiah (or other OT books, or ancient texts in general) as “hands-on historical.”

    For instance, over the last several months, we have had the following class modules components (usually while also covering the lesson material at a basic level):

    “Gaining greater appreciation for the story of Job by feasting together.” (Job’s family is portrayed as eating at a couple feasts. We feasted with period-appropriate food and drink in class).

    “Old Testament-era weapons.” We made leather slings, practiced slinging stones and eggs, and reviewed scriptures that discussed sling weaponry. In a different week, part II included a presentation and discussion of other biblical-era weapons (atlatl, macahuitl, battle-ax, arrows, mace, jawbone of an ass, etc. We had planned to include a quick flint-knapping lesson, but ran out of time, though I’ve previously done that with younger classes.)

    “Hooking the Leviathan” (reference comes from Job, this is a discussion and presentation of ancient fishing technology, including some hands-on bone carving).

    “Understanding Isaiah by eating the foods Isaiah ate.” (We ate period-era cheeses (goat and sheep) and fish on not-so-traditional crackers. This included a quick summary of the 10,000 year hold history of the domestication of sheep, goats, cows, and the related human evolutionary changes that overcame lactose intolerance).

    “Piscine practices in the OT.” (Discussion of what fish were caught and eaten in Old Testament waters, with loosely accurate fish samples (herring, snapper)).

    The kids (and parents) have seemed to appreciate the historical approach.

    Another thing we try to do in each class is ask the most interesting questions the lesson matieral seems to raise. Given the texts, that has been an engaging exercise.

  16. Julie M. Smith on October 6, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    So you can pretty much assume that if everyone taught youth the way that Stirling does, the activity rate would hover near 100%.

  17. Sister Sally on October 13, 2006 at 12:06 am

    I teach seminary in Texas and through our teacher training this year we have been taught to teach with a new emphasis. 1)Read a particular verse 2)Find a principle in that verse 3)Apply that principle to your own life. This emphasis sounds really simple, but if you try it with your class you will truly discover feasting on the scriptures. Your students will learn to find principles when they read on their own and they will learn how to apply those principles in their lives. For definition, a principle is a consentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. Remember there are many principle found in a verse. Where one student may see one principle another student may see a completely other principle. Neither is wrong. You can spend a whole class just searching for scriptures, finding principles and then applying. Once a student makes application in their own life they will begin testifying of its truthfulness. Its fantastic. Where once we as teachers were spending 80% of the time talking we are now encouraged to spend 20% of the time instructing and allowing the students to spend the remainder applying and testifying. When one student testifies of a principle to another student it is 100% more effective than if the teacher is the one testifying. I encourage you to select several key scriptures for your lesson and then try the new teaching emphasis. I testify it will change the way you teach for the better.